As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq...
Sometimes, when a story breaks and a Christian organization is involved, it's easy to pile on. The Nation this week "broke" a story about a Christian version of the USO sending care packages to troops in Iraq. What's bad about that? The care packages include the profoundly lame and profoundly controversial real-time strategy game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Reaction around the bloggysphere was predictble, with DailyKos posts and MetaFilter shout-outs and so on.
First, I think the shouting about the Department of Defense 'endorsing' Left Behind is silly. Morbid curiosity prompted me to download the demo a while back, and it was indeed quite awful. However, the OSU clearly states on their web site, "We receive no funds what-so-ever from the government and they have made it clear to us that they cannot support us financially." The 'official endorsement' that the OSU receives from the Department of Defense is pretty clearly a generic one, related to its "Watch a kickboxer and one of the Baldwin Brothers sing the national anthem and tear telephone books in half" song and dance routine. Their decision to include a lame C-list real-time strategy game in their care packages was almost certainly unknown to the DOD until The Nation wrote about it.
So, on the news story, my position is "Dumb game, bad idea sending it to a Muslim country when we're trying to convince everyone it's not a holy war. DOD didn't have anything to do with it, someone at OSU should be smacked with a fish repeatedly."
With that clarification behind us, I think the whole issue brings up the the Christian world's equivalent of Rule 34: for every cultural phenomenon, there is an explicitly Christian version lagging one year behind. This particular story combines two of them: A Christian version of Grand Theft Auto, and a Christian version of the USO tours. Is it an isolationist impulse? A Trojan-horse attempt to convince people that Christians Are Cool, Too? Maybe it's just a good-natured "Hey, that looks cool -- I'll do it too, but infuse it with what I'm passionate about!"
Probably a little of each, with the mix varying from person to person. Christianity isn't a monoculture any more than Islam or Judaism or SciFi fans. They do, however, produce some really frightening clowns.